The Nice GameStop Lady

I am a forgetful person in general. Not good with names or faces. But I do remember actions – and kindnesses. Especially when they come from strangers.

My best friend and I, wannabe Pokemon masters to this day, bought Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver at their time of release. A wise decision, considering how much the games are worth these days, though I could never bear to part with mine – it’s my all-time favorite Pokemon game, and is unlikely to be eclipsed.

It was a little while after we had purchased the games and we were browsing in the GameStop at our local mall. Rather, we were in one of the two GameStops in the mall – not sure why so many malls have two of them, but ours did at the time – although we were in the cramped, older upstairs one, not the newly-established, brighter downstairs one. This particular trip stands out to me because the manager on duty at the time stopped to talk to us. I remember her clearly because she was a professional, distinguished-looking, immaculately dressed woman, around middle-age, that one would not expect to find in a GameStop back in 2009. But she was very nice to a couple of nerdy teens – we were probably sixteen/seventeen at the time.

So nice, in fact, that she gave us two copies of the HeartGold/SoulSilver guide for free. Like, she went into the back room, brought out these beautiful, shining guide books, and handed them to us at no cost. I guess because they had extras from a giveaway at the time of the game’s release, or something. Hopefully she didn’t violate store protocol. I mean, one can never be sure – although I recall seeing her in the store a few times afterward. I don’t remember the exact dialogue of the conversation, but she said something like, “Hey, do you girls want these?” and we said, “Sure, thanks!” In fact, I still have it!

the book in question

I remember being stunned that someone would do something like that – something so small, but it carried a lot of weight. The guidebook meant a lot to me, not only because HeartGold is my favorite game – but because of the simple act of kindness that woman showed us that day. Her generosity stuck with me, and although I never learned her name, and can’t clearly remember her face, I remember that action, and likely always will.

Vacation, All I Never Wanted

Allow me to preface this post by saying that I am fully aware the following story has a “first world problems” vibe, but sometimes, I just want to complain. Thus, I’m going to. This post will also contain descriptions of some rather gross medical conditions, but no pictures, so here is a trigger warning for that.

I was fortunate to be on vacation last week, and even more fortunate to be able to visit my parents for the third time since they moved to Florida this past winter. This time, the rest of my immediate family – sister, brother-in-law, and both nephews – got to come as well, which was exciting for all of us.

The first time I went to visit, I was plagued first by the stomach flu, and then by a nasty cold which persisted for two weeks, even after I returned to PA. I also turned thirty during that trip, so, you know… it was fun, but there were drawbacks.

This time, I was determined to have a fun, stress-free vacation with my whole family, away from all the current trials and tribulations of my life at home. There was a bit of a scare a few days before my flight, as I developed rather severe cold symptoms (and, since calling out of work is not really an option for me most days, I had to suffer through the symptoms while working) though I fortunately tested negative for COVID three times over those few days. Thanks to copious amounts of cold medicine, vitamin c, and four boxes of Vicks-infused tissues, by the morning of my flight, I had a couple of sniffles, and a tickle in my throat, but nothing serious.

Vacation itself started fine – the plane ride was great, we got there at a reasonable time, the kiddos got to play in the pool, we had a delicious first dinner of artisan pizza, and then we called it a day. It was wonderful to have the whole family together.

Trouble brewed on the horizon the following morning, when I awoke with a bit of a sore throat. I tried to ignore it, thinking it was a fluke, just a tiny remainder of the cold I had the week before. Spoiler alert, this tale miraculously does not end up with me getting covid, but it was all downhill from there.

A couple of days in, I went to a movie with my sister, mom, and a family friend. My physical health was drifting into ~not great~ territory by this point, but I masked up, and made it through the movie with no issues, but several tissues. Though, at lunch afterward, I struggled to finish my meal, as my appetite was almost completely gone. I began to realize that something was definitely amiss, and, at the very least, my cold had not run its course prior to the start of my vacation, as I had hoped.

I began to wear a mask at all times, even around my family, because I also developed a deep, nasty cough that actually caused back pain. Sunday we had plans to go to a family friend’s home for dinner, and I opted out, since one of our friends is older and was slated to have surgery the following week and I did not want to spread any germs. Shortly before my family left, my eyes began to hurt. I said to my sister, “I really hope I’m not getting pink eye,” curled up on the couch under a fleece blanket (in Fla, in July), and started watching the new Are You Afraid of the Dark? limited series. My family left me alone, and I hoped for a relaxing evening.

The eye pain did not go away, and my vision started to get… cloudy. I doused a paper towel in warm water and wiped my eyes carefully, but it did not help the problem. I went to the mirror to look at myself, and was horrified. A gross, yellow mucous was leaking out of my eyes.

Now, I had pink eye as a kid, but I didn’t remember it being so… gross.

And it was gnarly, my dudes. I almost wish I took pictures because it went from 0 to 10 in like, an hour. It got steadily worse, to the point where I could barely see, because as soon as I wiped the gunk away, more came to replace it, coating my eyelids and eyelashes in white/yellow grime. During a small window where my vision wasn’t severely impaired, I managed to text my sister, “I definitely have conjunctivitis,” and she told me my mother would come to pick me up and take me to urgent care. I knew it was bad when my poor mother saw me get into the car and had to do a double take. My eyes were oozing.

We got to the urgent care around 7:48, and they close at 8. I never like to be that person, but initially putting it off because I did not want to have to pay for an urgent care visit, and having to wait for a ride – and the fact that my mom wanted to finish dinner first, which is fair, because I did not really convey how bad the situation was in my text – did make it so I cut it close. But I was seen swiftly, and, to make a long story short, I was diagnosed with acute conjunctivitis, AND a respiratory infection, AND second-stage hypertension, which was a surprise. I mean they took my blood pressure and asked me if high blood pressure ran in my family, which should have been a clue, but I didn’t find out until I read my discharge papers.

I wasn’t able to get my prescriptions until the morning, so the night was not fun. I had a heated towel wrapped around a sinus pillow over my face for most of the night. I stayed away from my family as much as possible. The morning after, my eyes were swollen (and crusty) to the point where I looked like an alien insect. and I could still barely see anything. Did I mention that we were supposed to have family pictures taken that evening? Yeah. I spent the morning laying sideways in a wicker chair on the lanai, away from everyone else, sinus pillow/wet towel over my eyes, listening to a murder podcast.

Fortunately, my mom and sister picked up my scripts as soon as the pharmacy opened, and, because even when you’re thirty, you’re never too old to be taken care of by your mother, she helped me put the eyedrops in. I took my antibiotics. The swelling went down over the course of the day, though I discovered, once my eyes were visible again, that I had also somehow popped a blood vessel in one eye, making me look like a demon. It was probably from coughing too hard, but I don’t have an official reason for how it happened.

Over the next several hours, my condition improved enough so I could make it to the pictures. Not sure how they will turn out, but hey, I didn’t look like an alien insect, at least. The meds helped so I was able to participate in most of the remaining vacation activities, for the next couple of days, so the whole week wasn’t a total loss. Any week I get to spend away from work and with my family, even if I am physically suffering, is better than most. So, other than the respiratory infection, conjunctivitis, constant coughing, and demonic red eye, some highlights from the trip included….

It wasn’t the vacation I wanted. Heck, I’ve been back for a couple of days, my cough remains, I’m still on antibiotics, and my eye is still demonically red, but it isn’t leaking mucous anymore, so that’s a plus. But I have another one coming up in October, a trip back to FLA with my sister and one nephew, and all I can do is look forward to having a better – and hopefully pink-eye free – time.

The Ache

This is not where I thought I would be.

I am a fortunate person, in general. I fully recognize that. But, at thirty, I am not happy with where I am in my life.

It is within my power to change my circumstances, but it is so very hard. When it feels like I have the ability to take a step forward, I hesitate, or freeze entirely. Sometimes I even go backward. I know that I have so much time, but most days, it still feels like I’m watching sand slip through an hourglass while I remain unchanged, and unhappy.

I am a prime example of procrastination, and, although some of it – you know, like cleaning my apartment, doing menial chores, getting my mail, scheduling appointments, etc – is laziness based, I’ve realized that the rest is fear based. Which isn’t much better, nor is it an excuse. And it’s so counterproductive.

Why have I not written more these past few years? I’m afraid no one wants to read it.

Why have I not tried querying again? I’m afraid of the rejection.

Why do I not share a large portion of my writing with others? I’m afraid it isn’t good enough. And even when people tell me they like it, I assume they’re just telling me that to make me feel better.

Why have I not left the job I’ve been in for the last thirteen years? It’s all I know, and I’m afraid that I’m not good at anything else, even though it sucks the literal joy out of my life.

And so on, and so forth. Which, ultimately, leads to me doing nothing. My word documents collect dust, and sit untouched for months. And it’s my passion. I love writing. I’m just terrified that it is a road that will lead me nowhere, so I balk when it comes to actually stepping forward.

I did, over the last year, actually work on editing my manuscript, thanks to some super helpful insight from an editor (and my toxic mindset did not lead me to think the praise she gave me was out of pity, since she also offered me some excellent points on what I needed to work on and was ultra professional) and although it was a very slow process for me, I’m almost at a fork in the road again. To query, or spiral in indecision for months.

I was spinning my wheels for so, so long. Longer than I should. I try not to look at it as wasted time, but as tedious character development. But I have begun to feel an ache, deep inside. The ache of how badly I want to make this happen for myself. But with that comes that nagging fear that it might not happen. And the toxic idea begins to creep into my brain that maybe – maybe – it’s foolish to try.

Now, the ache seems to outweigh the fear. So I will try, and not let any missteps, or steps backward, take me off the path. I will keep moving, even if it’s slow, and the uncertain road is long. And maybe, I will soon move forward with the confidence I need.

Rainbow

On a recent flight, I looked out the window and saw that we were flying past a gorgeous rainbow.

Unfortunately, my phone was off and in my bag, and by the time I dug it out and turned it on, this photo was all I could capture.

A little fragment was left. A mere slice of beauty. But definitely better than nothing, and I have the memory of it safely stowed away.

It gave me the hope that things will improve. And that, no matter how fleeting such lovely moments are, it is always worth it to chase those rainbows.

🌈

Worth 1000 Words #14: The Top of the Stairs

At the tail end of a dismal 2020, I vowed to make 2021 better. For my personal life, professional life, and mental health. I can now safely say that not only was 2021 exponentially worse, but 2022 isn’t off to that great of a start either. The downward spiral has continued. I am sure that many others echo this sentiment as the past couple of years have not been beneficial to many. And I spent $67 on gas the other day, which caused me physical pain.

In the midst of the dour 2021 doldrums, I was struggling to find the elusive balance balance in my life between work, personal relationships, family, and hobbies. I barely wrote anything. I didn’t go to the movies that much. I’ve only read one or two books since the start of the pandemic in 2020. I stopped going to the gym because I threw my back out at work and now go to a chiropractor once a week. At work, everything irritated me and I felt like I couldn’t get anything done to my usual standard. I spent entire days (when I wasn’t working) in bed doing nothing but watch YouTube videos and sleep. I felt like I was drowning. And to be totally honest, I’ve not yet found the surface. Almost three full months into 2022, mere DAYS away from turning 30 (a whole separate can of worms) and I am scrambling to gather control over my life. It’s a consistent cycle of self destruction that has been going on for at least the last three or so years and just when I think I am seeing the end of it, my train details and sets me back at square one. To top it off, I’ve begun suffering from compulsive behavior again so I am (TRIGGER ⚠️) peeling the skin off my hands (END TRIGGER ⚠️)and obsessively checking light switches, locks, and power outlets at home AND at work. So I see another cour of behavioral therapy in my future.

But there was a place where I found comfort when the world’s worries weighed me down. A place that may seem somewhat atypical as a sanctuary, or a haven of respite.

Many days, during the holiday slog, I would return home from work, exhausted (I did a lot of 12+ hour days this past season) from trying to stay afloat in an understaffed, overworked environment where irritable, inconsiderate customers continuously pecked at myself and my coworkers like vultures scavenging a carcass, and I would trudge to the top of my stairs, throw my belongings down, and lay down and fall asleep. This often happened at 2 or 3 AM, sometimes at 6 or 7 PM, and various times in between. One time, I spent a whole night at the top of the stairs and woke up very confused and in a LOT of pain.

nap time

The top of the stairs has, thus, become a bizarre place of comfort for me. I doubt that it is healthy to nap there, though I continue to do it – sometimes after work, sometimes after a social event, sometimes just because the crushing burden of stress has ground me down and I simply cannot bear to make it to my bed, and must rest right then and there, like a sad potato. Usually the cat stops to give my hair a sniff and then she goes about her business, totally unbothered by my plight. She will occasionally nap next to me, which is nice.

I thought, after the holidays were over and 2022 began, that it would get better. Sadly, it has not improved in any meaningful capacity – and it seems that this is where I’m at in my life. The other day, I got home from a 14 hour day where I still didn’t finish my work and felt like a complete failure, and when I got home, I curled up at the top of my stairs until the Chinese food I ordered arrived. I also got home from running errands with my sister and mom this past Saturday, and took an hour long nap at the top of my stairs. Unfortunately, I also had my balcony sliding door open and Mother Nature chose that precise moment to throw a tantrum and a torrential squall doused my living room carpet but, I assure you, I slept clear through it. I only woke up right at the tail end, when it also knocked my power out. My cat was not pleased with me.

I am truly fortunate to have (many) coworkers who are patient and understanding and family/friends who love me. They are what has made the past several months semi-bearable. And many have been going through similar tribulations, so they can understand my, admittedly bleak, outlook. And perhaps they have naps at the top of their stairs, too.

I know my life will not be like this forever. I am not quite the Queen of Doom and Gloom I seem like, sometimes. I know there will come a time where I am not continuously exhausted, and looking at each new day with an unsettling mixture of anxiety and dread. There are steps that I must take to better myself, and I am trying, but the steps have been tiny thus far and I still spend entire days in bed when I’m not working. I have struggled before, will struggle again, and there are definitely times where it feels like the light at the end of the tunnel is perpetually out of reach. That there is no other side to the riptide I’m stuck in. That the downward spiral is eternal. When I feel that way, I drag myself upstairs and stop, drop, and take a nice little nap. Usually with residual back pain, afterward.

But I am not going to deny myself credit where credit is due. At least I make it to the TOP of the stairs. And that, no matter how small, is an accomplishment.

Killer Swing

I was involved with sports for a significant portion of my adolescence. Basketball, soccer, track, and softball. I excelled in two of those (track and soccer) until a career ending knee surgery at age 15, and now I stick to the treadmill.

On the bright side, I got out of it before I had time to be super invested or think I had a chance of collegiate excellence, not that there was much hope of it in the first place.

And of all my athletic ventures, the sport I wish I had been better at is softball.

I was a half-decent catcher, surprisingly, although it exacerbated said knee issues. It was also assigned to me after I failed at shortstop and outfield. However, I could throw the farthest on the team. And I had a killer swing.

The issue was that I had 0% sense of aim, couldn’t hit a target, and could not connect with the ball to save my life.

It was a shame, really. When I first started out, I was already involved in soccer and basketball, so I looked like an athlete. I remember how excited my coaches looked to have me on the team when they saw me run. And when I swung a bat, they complimented my form with comments like, “killer swing!”

But, all too soon their praise turned to exasperation when they realized, during batting practice, that I could not connect with the ball. Watching the hope drain out of their eyes every time I struck out (which was, unfortunately, often) was pretty brutal, at the time. It was also perplexing to my teammates. I mentioned that I could throw the farthest on my team, and that was true – which is why I started in the outfield. But I also couldn’t aim AT ALL. I once tried to throw someone out at first from left field and threw it so far over the first baseman’s head the runner almost scored. I was a very bizarre combination of incredible strength, powerful image, and a stunning lack of grace and alarming inability to properly regulate my senses and limbs.

The one positive about my killer swing, though, was the fear it put into the eyes of my competition. And I did get some enjoyment out of that, as did my coaches and teammates. I mean, I was young then, but involvement in lots of sports meant that I cut an impressive figure, and I’ve always had a bitch face, so I looked kind of scary. I was able to intimidate, usually in pre-game warm ups, where I could usually hide how terrible I really was and look much more skilled.

So, if I couldn’t hit, I did what I could to put my killer swing to use.

I was usually put into a favorable spot in the lineup (hope sprang eternal for my coaches) and I distinctly remember one instance where I was standing in the on deck circle, probably thinking about snacks, and the opposing coach was watching me swing, and he yelled out to his pitcher, “Watch out for this next one!” and it took all my inner-strength not to laugh out loud. Because, if I wasn’t going to get any better (which I never did), I needed to be able to find humor in the situation.

And I guess the coach’s warning rankled his pitcher, because she didn’t throw the ball anywhere near the strike zone and I sailed through with a walk. I tried to get walked a lot, to be honest, since I knew I couldn’t hit. I also glared a lot to try and intimidate competitors not to mess with me, or peg my weaknesses. And I got by well enough without exposing my inabilities too badly, in most games. But I had fun playing, regardless.

So the moral of the story? Make the best of your situation, and even if you can’t back up your killer swing, find other ways to make your shortcomings work for you.

Tides

I have made it known in the past that I don’t like the beach.

Specifically, I don’t like sand, hot weather, or the blaring sun. I don’t swim in the ocean (or go in it past my knees) and I don’t even really swim in pools. I am a temperate, sensible ~70 degree type girl. I like having seasons. I like trees that change color.

My family and I just took a trip to Myrtle Beach, our first real vacation in two years due to the pandemic. We, despite all being fully vaccinated, were appropriately masked in public, although I can’t say the same for many other folks…

I walked the beach in the mornings, before the sandcastle builders, sun-tanners, and wave-chasers appeared, and before the sun got too hot. Even went barefoot in the sand. There was usually a nice breeze. Pleasant people. One morning I brought my Starbucks because even in South Carolina (the state of my youth, fun fact) I am nothing if not a basic bitch.

In the evenings, I would walk the beach around sundown. Most folks had already departed by that time, and the heat of the day had waned, and the water felt good on my feet. My mom usually came along to hunt shells, and my dad would try and skip flat shells across the water. A couple of times, I even brought a drink along, of the adult variety, since pretty much the only time I consume alcohol is when I am on vacation.

It was so peaceful. Calming. Tranquil. And as someone on the cusp of thirty, whose life is in a semi-state of flux, whose mind is so often in a tumult, I appreciated those morning and evening walks more during this trip than ever before. I treasured them. It was my favorite part of the trip, aside from quality time with my family.

I have felt the pull of many tides, lately. The rough, crashing tides of the evening, creeping further up the shore, creating pools in the sand and washing away footsteps of the past. The morning pull, not as wild but equally insistent, preparing the shore for a new day and carrying the promise of something fresh. The gentle lull of midday. And yet, even experiencing both over the last week, I have not felt torn. I even felt a little bit of clarity.

It was difficult to say goodbye to the beach, this time. I even felt a little emotional during my last morning walk on Saturday. But though I am home now, I will keep that feeling with me.

The feeling of going with the tides, without allowing myself to be lost at sea.